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Barbarism and Civilization

Friedrich Engels: Barbarism And Civilization

Against this backdrop, the dual concepts of barbarism and civilization emerged in the works of Friedrich Engels (1820–1895), who was influenced by Lewis H. Morgan's (1818–1881) pathbreaking study Ancient Society (1878). Engels writes: "Barbarism—the period during which man learns to breed domestic animals and to practice agriculture, and acquires methods of increasing the supply of natural products by human activity. Civilization—the period in which man learns a more advanced application of work to the products of nature, the period of industry and of art" (1972, p. 93). Homeric Greeks, native Italian tribes, Germanic tribes of Caesar's time, and the Vikings represent the upper stages of barbarism. Citing descriptions in Homer's Iliad, Engels continues: "Fully developed iron tools, the bellows, the hand mill, the potter's wheel, the making of oil and wine, metal work … the wagon and the war chariot, shipbuilding with beams and planks, the beginnings of architecture as art, walled cities with towers and battlements, the Homeric epic and a complete mythology—these are the chief legacy brought by the Greeks from barbarism into civilization" (p. 92).

It is evident that modern Western ideas of barbarism and civilization have a hierarchy built in. On the one hand, barbarians are seen as belligerent precursors of civilization. On the other hand, civilization is considered a culturally advanced stage of human development. Many of these ideas begin in ancient Greece.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Ballistic galvanometer to Big–bang theoryBarbarism and Civilization - Friedrich Engels: Barbarism And Civilization, Herodotus And The Barbarians, Toynbee's Rhythm Of History